COMMENTARY: The critical importance of effective customer service

Edward J. Doway

In July 2018, we at 4D-HMR joined together with NNETEDC to present a seminar on Customer Service Par Excellence on the island of Dominica. We thought it would be a great idea to allow businesses and personnel to revitalize after the devastation of Hurricane Maria of 2017. Though we did quite a bit of advertising, very few people showed up. Though surprised, I remember someone saying to a group of business owners that we are emphasizing too much on “Customer Service” To him, it was like resurrecting slavery and the days of the slave master. I did not see the relevance, but it opened my eyes as to why the lack of Customer Service is so prevalent.

When it comes to a business, nothing matters if you offer poor customer service.

Let’s then look at the importance of Good Customer Service. Picture yourself visiting a friend’s home and not feeling very welcome, either because you are ignored, the television is on too loud, the music from a vehicle parked outside is overbearing. You would be ready to walk out and never consider visiting that person again. In fact, the friendship may even be broken.

On a visit to another Caribbean island, one of my very best experiences in genuine customer service started on my arrival with the immigration officer, continued on with the Customs Officers and the people who invited me to the island. Though this happened in 2015, the experience left a lasting impression on me up to this day and I always tell persons about the courteous  manner in which I was treated during my stay visit in that island. It was all based on Customer Service.  Caring for people and respect we have for one another is the Main Ingredient for effective Customer Service anywhere in the world.

I believe that a country considering tourism as a main income generator, they must consider teaching its citizens and residence the very importance of Customer Service, regardless to what areas of the spectrum one serves. A smile with the words “Welcome to“or “How can I help you” leaves a lasting impression on any one. I always believe in the motto “Treat others the way you would want to be treated”.

Great customer service will result in maximum customer retention. Growing the existing customer base is as important as holding the customers.  A brand that has excellent customer strength can easily retain the customers. With time the customers develop a sense of trust and retaining such customers becomes easy. The way you deal with customers decides whether a customer is likely to use your brand again. Very often, this depends on the first experience that a customer had with your brand. Satisfaction of customers is important for a business, because only a satisfied customer will revisit a business. And recommend it to others. Recently, I have observed that our sales persons and receptionist at various businesses in Dominica are very much focused on their phones or tablets, ignoring the very entrance of a customer. While technology has changed the way we do business, persons are so engulfed in listening to their headphones that they do not even realize that someone is trying to get served.

When a customer visits a local retailer to make a purchase. They are able to benefit in some cases from the additional service of having the attendant explain to them what other services are available or how best the product can be used.  At the same time hopefully they will get a good ‘service’ from the retailer, who will be happy to help them with advice about other components to the product or item that the customer is purchasing and the options available such as , repayment terms, delivery etc.  Customer service is one of the most important elements of the marketing mix for products and services. High quality customer service helps to create customer loyalty. Customers today are not only interested in the product they are being offered but all the additional elements of service that they receive from the greeting they receive when they enter a retail outlet, to the refund and help that they receive when they have a complaint about a faulty product that they have paid for.

Value for money is also important when it comes to customer service. If the cost of the item or the service is high, but the customer service is great, then the customer may have a great consideration for spending their hard earned dollar. Imagine you have a flat tire on your vehicle and there are no service stations or tire repair places for miles, so you risk the journey hoping that you will find a location to repair the tire or get some air and when you arrive at the location, the air pump is not working or the station is close. There is nothing more frightening especially for a visitor, because panic sets in. You only have one spare tire. Or you rent a vehicle and on collecting the vehicle, you realize that there is very little petrol and the next gas station is a mile away. Those are the little issues that demonstrate the lack of Customer Care.  Too many times I have had that experience and no one has been able to address the problem. Being in the Business of being in Business requires that the owners of these businesses taka a course in Customer Service, and not just focus on making money. Value for money is important and poor service will bring the business to a crashing halt.

  • It must always be remembered that Customer Service matters more than price.
  • Customers will only stay loyal to a company if they have very good reason to. Otherwise, there is plenty of competition available they could choose to move to. By providing the best in customer service, you will increase trust, and that could mean the difference between customer loyalty and customers who jump ship.
  • As I mentioned with my experience, Word of Mouth is your best seller. It’s like reading a great novel.  Word of mouth is the most powerful ally you have on your side. What your customers say to others could make or break your business. I still talk about my experience when I first arrived and how well I was treated by the Immigration Supervisor. It is a saved in my memory bank. “It’s better in the Bahamas is not just a slogan; it’s a way of life based on the customers’ experience.   It all adds up to Genuine Customer Service. It speaks volume which indicates “we need your business, and we want to serve you. “
  • Problems are always going to arise for any business no matter how hard you try to avoid them. While you can’t run a perfect business with all the perfect customers, you can ensure friction doesn’t become an issue. If customers know that they can voice complaints and those issues will be handled properly, they will feel more comfortable doing business with you. But you have to address the issues that are fixable within the shortest time frame.
  • Customer service isn’t just about being courteous to your customers – it’s a vital element of business operations that can impact your bottom line and affect how your company is viewed in the public eye. Several high-profile companies have been in the news of late, finding themselves in the spotlight because of poor customer service policies. The good news is it is relatively simple to implement a customer service improvement plan that keeps your business on top.
  • Train yourself to be a Good Service Provider
  • Go the extra mile to make sure your customer is satisfied with the product or service. But remember that while the Customer is important, it all starts with the attitude of your staff.
  • Know your customers. Invite your customers to company functions. Keep a data base of customers, and remember them on their special day by sending a gift.  Social media makes it easy by reminding one of a customer’s birthdays.

Good service starts with your attitude and employee training. After all, good service works from the top down, and employees who are specifically trained in the art of quality customer service are far more likely to represent your company in the way that ensures satisfaction and repeat business. Develop an In-house Policy and Procedure manual so that your staff knows exactly what amount of independence they have to be able to provide efficient customer service. Once that is done “STOP Micro managing.

In that light, be certain that you select persons who know the importance of customer service and are ready to go the extra mile. Think about calling the police department to report a burglary or a crime in action and they show up 45 minutes later, when you know it only takes them 10 minutes to get to your location. You would certainly be extremely angry. That is how a customer feels with a late delivery or bad service.

A great example of knowing the effectiveness of your business is to go Undercover as the Boss. 

Provide customer service training: Train your employees on customer service policies. Make customer service training an ongoing part of your company’s professional development program.

Another way to gauge service levels is to invite customers to give you an honest assessment of the type of service you and your employees provide. Do this via surveys, focus groups, or by having an online or in-store comment box available. Carefully review compliments and complaints and look for common threads that can be addressed and improved upon.

Ask your employees to keep you apprised of the most common complaints and compliments they receive and strive to do less of the former and more of the latter. Consider rewarding staffers for exceptional levels of service as well. This encourages not only compliance but also above-and-beyond efforts.

And most of all, remember to keep your customers happy by letting them know how you feel about their patronage.

At 4D Hospitality Management Resources, we place emphasis on the importance of Effective Customer Service in the area of Hospitality, Tourism and Being In Business in general.

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  1. Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
    August 22, 2018

    Man all of that is sweet sounding rubbish, garbage; Immigration and custom official all over the world except Dominica  are usually polite to people and treat them with respect unless they have a reason to treat the person as a criminal. The last time I was in Dominica the so called custom officer went through my luggage with a vengeance, screwing up my cloths with his dirty hands!

    I traveled from Los Angeles to New York, Antigua where I over night for a connecting flight next day; my luggage I did not see until I got to Dominica. Luggage threw X-R, at LAX, anything illegal can be seen: if the passenger has no access to their  suitcase, until arrival in Dominica, why should some idiot with dirty hands have to sift through peoples luggage? 

    All of this long nonsense you wrote is simply another show of how long a Dominican can write, who cares, when every business leaves the country, or go bankrupt!

    Where is Ross University?

    There are no employment!

  2. Dominican
    August 22, 2018

    One place I just get good customer service in Roseau is when i go to that computer place across from Jays, no lie. These people on point as soon as I open their door I getting a greeting. and they ready to help me.
    Big up to Cats.

  3. Hyacinth
    August 22, 2018

    Customer service exists NOWHERE in Dominica ??. Not in any service or establishment. I think that concept eluded the island completely and in this day and age they still do not see the relevance

  4. Nature island
    August 21, 2018

    I am sorry I did not hear about this. Target businesses. Please do it again. Not sure what methods were used to advertise, but it would be very useful. Get DAIC on board. Can you kindly confirm what the acronyms 4D-HMR NNETEDC mean?


  5. Truth hurts
    August 21, 2018

    Dominica is the best example of horrible Customer Service.

  6. JLR
    August 21, 2018

    Excellent pointers!

  7. mine
    August 21, 2018

    It”s about time to do something because customer service is real bad. Thank you and thank you.

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